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Highpoint jail blasted by inspectors

PUBLISHED: 08:36 16 January 2002 | UPDATED: 11:11 03 March 2010

PRISON inspectors have again branded the East Anglian jail where child killer Myra Hindley is serving a life sentence as "a disgrace".

A report into conditions at Highpoint Prison, compiled by the Board of Visitors, repeated last year's criticisms over the "shameful" condition of accommodation for women prisoners.

PRISON inspectors have again branded the East Anglian jail where child killer Myra Hindley is serving a life sentence as "a disgrace".

A report into conditions at Highpoint Prison, compiled by the Board of Visitors, repeated last year's criticisms over the "shameful" condition of accommodation for women prisoners.

Despite leaking roofs being replaced on the old RAF accommodation blocks at the prison near Haverhill, the report condemned the condition and number of showers and toilets.

It also revealed a risk to security posed by cell doors that cannot be locked, leaving inmates "free to roam".

The report stated: "We said last year that these units are a disgrace to a modern and humane prison service. Twelve months later, we say it again.

"Too many women have to share too few lavatories and showers and the state of the useable recesses is shameful.

"In these units the women share double cells, which cannot be locked. This, given the very difficult prisoners Highpoint has been sent this year, could well be a threat to security."

Caroline Kirk, author of the report and chairman of the prison's Board of Visitors, added: "It is deeply frustrating.

"These three accommodation blocks have been in this sordid state for a very long time. We have been waiting for something to happen, but no one has done anything. The state of these blocks is foul for the staff as well as the prisoners."

The report said Sue Doolan, governor of the jail that has almost 300 women prisoners – including Moors Murderer Myra Hindley - had intended putting in a bid to the Prison Service's estate planning committee for money to improve the old units.

"We have since heard that this bid has been 'put on hold'. Thus it seems to be no end to the appalling conditions that we reported on last year," it added.

Last year's report from the Board of Visitors revealed the accommodation block roofs of the jail had "let in water for years", ruining electricity supplies and plaster on the walls, and some shower facilities were "unfit for use".

This year's report said the only improvement made was that "buckets do not have to be placed in corridors to catch the leaks" and added: "We can only repeat that these conditions are a disgrace."

Other concerns raised include a shortage of staff to deal with the increasing number of prisoners and the way in which inmates with psychiatric problems were dealt with.

"There are now fewer officers expected to manage an increased prison population. This puts pressure on those officers, some of whom then go off on sick leave due to stress, creating even more pressure on those left," said the report.

"The board remains deeply concerned at the number of prisoners in need of psychiatric care who end up on segregation. A number of them suffer from conditions which make them violent or suicidal and it is not right that prison officers should have to be responsible for them."

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Highpoint North blocks 1, 2 and 3 have been given new roofs and there has been some refurbishment work on recesses.

"We are also in the process of preparing a bid for further refurbishment work to be carried out to improve the standard of accommodation at the prison."

However, a previous bid for funds - made last year after encouragement from Prison Service director general Martin Narey, who visited the prison in May - was rejected.

The spokeswoman added the prisons minister would be writing to the Board of Visitors shortly to address its concerns.

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